Charlie Pattinson could be mistaken for a young Elton John. With his curly hair and infectious laugh, it’s not hard to see how he could easily emulate one of music’s greatest ambassadors. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter is no stranger to the public eye, having graced the covers of several high-profile magazines and released several EPs under his independent record label, Self-Released. The Londoner’s latest single, “Giant Steps,” premieres today on AOL Music and was inspired by the late-night piano sessions that marked Mr. John’s adult life.
“Giant Steps” is just one of the gems contained on Charlie’s newly released sophomore album, Speak In Tongues (Songs From And Inspired By The Lord Of The Rings). One of the album’s standout tracks, “Giants Among Us,” is an ode to the power of music and the communal experience of making it.
“I think all of us can relate to being inspired by and moved by the power of great music,” Pattinson told Billboard. “Whether you’re a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings or simply know the story, I think the track speaks to everyone.”
While his musical influences range from Billie Holiday to Joni Mitchell to The Beatles, Charlie says his songwriting career began when he was just 12 years old. Inspired by punk rock and the DIY ethos of the late ’70s, the Londoner founded his own label and began putting out his own music. He released his debut EP, A Beautiful Thing, in 2013 and followed it up with a string of 7″ singles.
The Boy From London
It’s not often that a career in music is launched by a high school dropout. But that’s what makes Charlie’s story all the more remarkable. After leaving school at the age of 17, Charlie apprenticed under some of Britain’s greatest music producers, gaining invaluable experience and launching his own production company.
Pattinson’s path to becoming an independent musician wasn’t always going to be smooth sailing. As the son of a publisher, he grew up surrounded by music. His father, Bill, was an accomplished pianist who played for the Queen and held his own recitals. But the elder Pattinson also had to work hard to make ends meet, and when Charlie was 11 years old, he had to help support the family by playing piano in someone’s home. He began to get bored of practicing and writing songs, so he began looking for ways to entertain himself, like many teenagers.
At first, Charlie turned to skateboarding and punk rock. But by the time he turned 15, he was listening to classical music and found himself getting inspired by the harmonies of pop music. It was at this point that he decided to switch gears and pursue a career in music. He took voice and piano lessons in preparation for his Grand Tour, which lasted a year and took him to some of the world’s most renowned concert halls and opera houses. While he was there, he also attended workshops with some of the greatest living composers, including Gavin Bryars, Alex James, and Mike Batt.
After his year-long journey around the world, Charlie returned to London and began to take his artistic abilities more seriously. He studied music at the Royal Academy of Music and later attended the Royal College of Music, where he completed a degree in composition. He continued to write and perform his own music while also taking part in various group writing projects with some of the world’s best songwriters.
It’s not every day that you find a young man of 23 pursuing a career in music. But then, Charlie isn’t your usual 23-year-old. While he may grow his hair and listen to The Cure, he also designs album covers and demos new songs every week.
Writing On The Move
It might not be the most conventional way to make a living, but conventional has never been a strong suit for Charlie. He has always been driven by his muse and the need to express himself artistically. For the past two years, he has been busily writing and recording his forthcoming album, Speak In Tongues, which he describes as “mostly about love and loss.”
Charlie attributes this to the challenging times he’s had to endure since the global economic downturn in 2008. The singer-songwriter lost his job as the promotions manager of a London nightclub and had to move back home with his parents. There, he became involved in a serious car accident that left him with serious injuries, including a broken wrist and arm. While he was in hospital, he says he “got into a lot of books” and began studying the great myths and religions of the world. This period of reflection led to the birth of “Giants Among Us.”
“In a lot of ways, being in hospital was like being in a fantastic library,” Charlie told Billboard. “The only difference is that whereas the greats of literature and history could only ever meet in books, music is what brought us together. It was during these lonely nights that I found myself playing piano and singing along to Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell records. It was the sound of their voices that inspired me to write ‘Giants Among Us.'”
It’s not often that a lyricist can lay claim to having one of the world’s greatest living composers in his back pocket. But Charlie is very proud to say that he has written a song that he describes as “a poem to composer John Williams.” The lyricist’s favorite film scoreian is well-known for his work on the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars series. But Charlie says he was first and foremost inspired by Williams’ work on Jaws, describing it as “the quintessential film score.”
The young British musician has seen the ups and downs of the music industry and has experienced firsthand the struggles that so many other emerging artists face. While he may be at the forefront of a growing movement, Charlie also knows how quickly trends can change. For this reason, he says he’s trying to create as many lasting memories as possible during this time in his life and is determined to pursue his dream of becoming a successful solo artist.
A Change Of Direction
There’s a certain magic to be found in music that transcends generations. It’s a universal language that connects people from all walks of life and cultures, allowing them to find common ground and discover new things about each other. It’s an experience that Charlie tries to bring to every one of his performances, even if he is playing to a crowd of one.
For those who aren’t familiar, a cappella music is sung without the use of accompaniment. It can range from singing in just your head to a small ensemble of singers. While it can be beautiful and breathtaking to witness, it is also incredibly difficult to perform. This is especially true if you are new to the genre or if you have to go on after a long break. As a result, most a cappella groups consist of former members of the high school choir or jazz band. However, with the right coaching, anyone can become a great vocalist and artistically express themselves through music.
This is what makes Charlie’s decision to form a cappella group so intriguing. In an attempt to bring this element of beauty and magic to the forefront of music, he has decided to form a group of like-minded individuals and teach them how to sing and how to express themselves through song. To that end, he has formed a five-piece group composed of himself on piano, along with guitarists Peter Kiely and Ben Ellis, drummer Oliver Wake, and bassist Alex Lee. The group is called The Roots.
So far, the young music producer’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. In addition to his solo work and contributions to various collaborative projects, Charlie’s group has performed at some of London’s most prestigious venues and been featured on television shows across the pond.
A Lasting Impression
In the meantime, we can expect to hear more from Charlie Pattinson. Between writing songs and designing album art, the singer-songwriter already has more than enough material to work with. While he may not always like to admit it, the young British musician has a lot to offer the world and knows how to convey his feelings and ideas to others through music.
“There’s so much positivity in my music. People are connecting with it and feeling something positive about it, which is the most important thing,” he told Billboard. “That feeling will last a lifetime, and it’s something I want to be able to give back to the world.”